Posted at July 24, 2020

Wife’s lament and Margery Kempe

In Anglo-Saxon societies, the roles of women depended on their status in that particular community. Like in medieval societies, men in the Anglo-Saxon societies played a dominant role. Women were responsible for a few roles. Women were overshadowed by men. The women held subservient and submissive roles in the Anglo-Saxon era. They were viewed as peace weavers, memory keepers, motivators, and cupbearers. Although few texts explain the role played by women in the Anglo-Saxon, poems such as the Wife`s lament demonstrates the role of women in these societies. Women in the Anglo-Saxon and medieval eras had numerous roles like in any other culture. These include wives, mothers, teachers, and caregivers. Like the Wife in Wife`s Lament, Margery Kempe was a wife at the same time a mother. At the age of 40, Margery Kempe became a bride of Christ who had extraordinary interests in preaching to the world. The wife`s lament is an old poem that is primarily concerned with the grief and representation of the desperate state of a female speaker. The poem describes the tribulations suffered by her which exposed her to a state of lamentation subjected to numerous interpretations. The Wife`s Lament entails a wife who is a victim of forced exile and performs a psychological examination on herself as well as her current state of despair. 

As far as marriage is concerned, women in Anglo Saxon societies had the possibility of marrying anyone they feel like. This is because some marriage rituals were performed to keep the peace between different clans. However, women still owned the right to refuse arranged marriages. At only 20 years of age, Margery married John Kempe. Unlike Margery Kempe who grew up in the Anglo-Saxon society, The Wife in Wife`s Lament just got married to the lord of the speaker`s people who made her enter an exogamous relationship in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. The speaker`s marriage isolated her from her husband`s people. Unlike in the Anglo-Saxon era where women had the right to marry anyone they felt like, in medieval eras, women did not have a choice to whom they would marry. The medieval women were not aware of the man they were going to marry before their wedding day. However, men sometimes had the right to choose their bride. Medieval marriages were not based on love. Both husbands and wives were strangers until they met on their wedding day. In a few cases, love could develop later after the marriage of the couple. The couple generally developed some friendship although love did not develop immediately.

Marriage arrangements were based on monetary worth. The family of the bride would give a donation or dowry to the family of the groom. Dowry was generally presented to the groom during the time of marriage. Like in Anglo-Saxon societies, marriages in medieval societies were arranged for political reasons. In Anglo-Saxon, marriages were specially arranged to maintain peace between clans. Marriages in both Anglo-Saxon societies and medieval societies were arranged by the grooms and bride`s parents. Both Women in Anglo-Saxon and medieval societies raised their children, educated their children, managed their houses, and became divorced. However, in medieval societies, there were few reasons upon which a marriage could be dissolved. One of the strong reasons was either if the woman or man was below the legal age, that is to say, 14 for boys and 12 for girls. The marriage could as well be dissolved if either the husband or wife had made a monastic or religious vow. Marriage in Anglo-Saxon societies put women in adamant positions since they held the responsibilities of uniting two warring families. Women were treated as sex objects and were entirely not respected by their husbands. 


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